While it was momentarily an awards season contender thanks solely to studio-willed exposure, WWII drama “The Book Thief” nonetheless sputtered out upon its US release, never quite connecting with critics or fans of the best-selling book by Markus Zusak. As the Oscars played out this past weekend with only John Williams’ score gaining a nod, a post-mortem was inevitable—and now the films screenwriter has spoken up first.
Following a young German girl (played by Sophie Nelisse) who retreats into a world of books after her neglectful foster parents shelter a young Jewish man during WWII, “The Book Thief” faltered, in our opinion, underneath its director Bryan Percival’s earnest, soft-handed approach. And in a new interview with the film’s screenwriter Michael Petroni, he revealed that his initial draft of the film was a much darker affair than the version that ended up onscreen.
“My major disappointment with the rewrites was that they took out most of the magic realism that features in the book,” he said. “Fox wanted a film that would appeal to families, not just adults, and Brian wanted to tell more of a straight, dramatic tale.”
Petroni first wrote his draft seven years ago for Fox, where it sat until producer Karen Rosenfelt raised the funds needed to make it a reality. Finally grossing $21.5 million in the US and $61.6 worldwide, the film’s reception is undoubtedly a disappointment for those who weathered its long journey. At least the studio can count on Australia, though, or perhaps the local appeal of Geoffrey Rush – it’s taken in $13.5 million there since its release in January. [Inside Film]